Title: Patch Passport: Travel Back in Time - Crystal Lake and the Dole Mansion
Author: Brittaini Maul
Publisher: Crystal Lake Patch
Crystal Lake was founded in 1835 by Beman and Polly Crandall, along with six of their ten children. Pioneers emigrating from the east settled along Crystal Lake, where in the first years, "there was little on which to rest the eye except the ground and the sky."
Crystal Lake was first settled mainly around Route 14 and the lake itself. A.M. Anar opened the first store in 1840. Butter ranged from five to nine cents per pound; eggs were five cents a dozen.
The village of Nunda, first known as Dearborn, was born in the spring of 1855. It was located just north of Crystal Lake, and its boundaries were route 176 to the north, Crystal Lake Avenue to the south, Main Street to the east, and Walkup Avenue to the west. Nunda, due to its close proximity to the railroad, quickly became the business center of the county.
Both villages were incorporated in 1874. The two villages feuded for 40 years, mainly small town squabbles, until the village of Nunda - then called North Crystal Lake - was annexed to the city of Crystal Lake on September 23, 1914.
Major industries in Crystal Lake have included farming, ice harvesting, and the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company. Begun in 1881, the company grew from a plain drain tile factory to a producer of fine architectural terra cotta. The manufacture of terra cotta was discontinued in 1966.
The Dole Mansion: Its History and Evolution
There are no other structures in Crystal Lake like the Dole mansion, now known as the Lakeside Center. C.S. Dole, a partner in the Chicago grain company Armour and Dole, built the mansion in 1864 cost $100,000 to build. The house was built with lavishly, with European Craftsman brought in to lay parquet floors and create interior woodwork from black walnut trees grown on the property. The property was called Lakeland Farm and included a half-mile racetrack.
In the late 1890s, Dole sold his home to his son-in-law for $1. The mansion was used as an office for the Knickerbocker ice harvesting business. Before refrigeration, ice harvesting was a major industry in Crystal Lake, providing income for farmers in the winter months. The Dole Mansion was used for a number of different ice companies until the industry declined.
The property was sold in 1922 to the Lake Development Company. Mrs. Al "Lou" Ringling, widow of the oldest Ringling Brother, was vice president of the Lake Development Company. The mansion was restored and the annex, now called the Creative Art Center, was added. The property became the first Crystal Lake Country Club.
The life of the Country Club was short lived, however, and faltered following the stock market crash of 1929. The building and adjacent property were sold to the Franciscan Order in 1945. The building became St. Mary's Minor School for Boys, a seminary for high school boys studying for the priesthood. St Mary's was a residential boarding school, with about half of its students living on campus.
Enrollment faltered around 1970 and the building closed.
The First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake purchased the building in 1977. The center became "Lakeside Center." Thousands of volunteer hours went into renovating the annex.
Local Dole Mansion enthusiast and retired interior designer Virginia Howley remembers the Dole Mansion when it was a school and when it was owned by First Congregational.
"Father Norbert used to use the old iron stove to make special German treats for the seminarians and students," Howley said. "And it was always wonderful to see the families pushing their strollers when First Congregational bought the property. Crystal Lake has always had a beautiful, homey, Cape-Cod feel to it."
Dorothy Heisler, of Heisler's Bootery, a resident of Crystal Lake for over 90 years said of the Dole Mansion, "It's always been there. Crystal Lake has always been a good place to live, and it still is."
In January of 2000, First Congregational voted to sell the property. In 2002, a major fund-raising effort called "Lakeside Legacy: Save the Dole" was spearheaded by the local Jaycees. In 1942, the community had raised $1.2 million dollars to purchase the property. The money went to the Lakeside Legacy Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the restoration of the Dole Mansion and the creation of an arts and education center for use by the community.
Sylvia Yount, a resident of Crystal Lake for over 30 years, said, "I loved working with the Dole Mansion Preservation Society to preserve the building." She added, "There were many people who wanted to tear it down, but we resisted."
"There's one piece of woodwork installed in the center hallway that's installed upside down," said Diana Kenney, executive director of Downtown Crystal Lake. "I took a tour of the Dole Mansion in the mid-1980's and I was hooked."
The Lakeside Legacy and Lakeside Center serve over 80,000 people a year, and always hosts the local Lakeside Festival in the summer. There are 24 resident partner artists utilizing the Lakeside Center, both for studio space and classes.
"If we lost the Dole, we would lose a unique venue for events and 150 years of history and architecture. The land would become condos, and we would lose our heritage." Said Lakeside Legacy Executive Director
On the first Friday of every month, the Lakeside Legacy hosts a Gallery Night. At Gallery Night the Lakeside Center's galleries are open to the public and there is live music and a special theme. Admission is by donation.
If you're interested in learning more about Crystal Lake history, contact the Crystal Lake historical society or pick up the Postcard History Book for sale at Howell's Gifts or City Hall.